In South Asian culture, hair oiling is not just a beauty regimen; it is a holistic practice rooted in love and wellness
In South Asian culture, hair oiling is not just a beauty regimen; it is a holistic practice rooted in love and wellnessVasanth Kumar

Vasanth Kumar's Photographs Capture The Delicate Intimacy Of South Indian Hair Rituals

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As we journey through life, we often overlook the significance of everyday rituals that shape our cultural and familial heritage. These seemingly simple acts, passed down through generations, hold profound meaning and connect us to our roots in ways we may not fully appreciate until later in life. This sentiment is beautifully depicted in a photoseries by homegrown photographer Vasanth Kumar that serves as a window into the cherished legacies of South Indian ancestors, preserving intimate rituals on beauty and wellness for generations to come.

The series is a part of Love, Paati by Nethra Gomatheswaran a photobook described by the author as 'a coffee table book that unveils 130+ beauty & wellness rituals, anecdotes, & reminiscences sourced from diverse corners of South India. For many, including the artist herself, hair oiling transcends mere self-care; it becomes a sacred act of connection to mothers, grandmothers, and a lineage of women whose nurturing hands have shaped generations. As the artist indulges in this ritual, memories of childhood moments spent with her mother and grandmother flood her mind — the scent of coconut oil, the warmth of familial embrace, and the tender care that binds generations together. The book documents these rituals, stories, and experiences, aiming to preserve the knowledge that is slowly fading away in the face of modern trends and commercialization.

Photo series by Vasanth
Photo series by VasanthVasanth

In South Asian culture, hair oiling is not just a beauty regimen; it is a holistic practice rooted in love and wellness. Known as "sneha" in Sanskrit, the act of oiling is synonymous with expressing affection and care. Natural oils like coconut and amla are not only nourishing for the hair but also carry stories of tradition and heritage, passed down from one generation to the next. It's also one of the first rituals we have as girls that become a symbol of femininity, womanhood, self-care and nourishment for our lives, tying us to our mothers and grandmothers, reminding us that they were, much like us, just a girl.

In a world where ancient practices are often commodified and stripped of their authenticity, The series serves as a reminder of the rich heritage embedded in these rituals. It urges us to embrace and celebrate our cultural legacies and ensure that the stories, origins, and traditions of our ancestors continue to thrive and inspire future generations. Through this series, we are invited to reconnect with the essence of South Indian culture and cherish the timeless rituals that bind us together as a community.

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